Liam PITCHFORD set for world’s top 100
Twenty-year-old Liam PITCHFORD from Chesterfield, Derbyshire hit the form of his life at the Polish and German Opens to send out a huge message to his Commonwealth Games rivals ahead of Glasgow 2014. The reigning English National Champion was rampant in
Twenty-year-old Liam PITCHFORD from Chesterfield, Derbyshire hit the form of his life at the Polish and German Opens to send out a huge message to his Commonwealth Games rivals ahead of Glasgow 2014. The reigning English National Champion was rampant in Europe, extending his ‘giant-killer’ reputation after a series of stunning victories.
In Poland he beat Patrick FRANZISKA (GER, world rank 38) and Noshad ALAMIYAN (IRI, 54) before bettering those results with wins over GAO Ning (SIN, 16), Kenta MATSUDAIRA (JPN, 18), OH Sangeun (KOR, 29) and YANG Zi (SIN, 81) in Germany.
The youngster, who plies his trade in Germany with club TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen, rode his excellent form to a personal best finish of the Men’s Singles Quarter-Finals and Under-21s Semi-Finals at one of the premier world table tennis events in Berlin. The current world no 125 came to prominence after his shock victory over world no. 9, and former three–time European Champion Vladimir SAMSONOV, in the 2011 European Championships when he was ranked 269th in the world.
However, PITCHFORD’s performances are now expected to push the Englishman well inside the world’s top 100 when the rankings are published in December – potentially higher than the no. 83 position that colleague Paul Drinkhall reached in August 2012. His new-found form and results come less than a year before the Commonwealth Games where the England team are expecting to pick up medals once again.
No Englishman has won the singles gold medal since the sport’s addition to the Games in Manchester 2002, but with victories over Singapore’s GAO Ning and YANG Zi – two of the biggest candidates for gold in Glasgow, the argument for Pitchford to become the first English gold medal winner has certainly strengthened. It took six-time European Champion and current world no. 6, Tim BOLL (GER), to end the Derbyshire-born star’s run in Germany but even he admitted how tough the Englishman can be.
BOLL said: “The last game might have been a clean sweep, but all the other games were very close. He is not my favorite opponent. Recently in the German Bundesliga I had a tough fight with him, only beating him 3-2. He is always difficult to play for me.”
Liam PITCHFORD on form: “This is by far my best tournament of my life and has already given me a lot of confidence. I am playing the best table tennis of my life. I am playing regularly for my club in Germany now. It is great practice every day and there is everything there I need to get better. In the last few months I have developed more as a player, which is great. Last week I played well at the Polish Open, so it is nice to have a good run of form. I need to keep on trying to play my game in the future and play my game better and better.”
On beating YANG Zi: “I had lost to YANG Zi twice before 4-0 so I was a bit nervous before the match. I went into it trying to be confident. I know how he plays and I guess he knows how I play as well, so in the end it was good to survive. I was leading 3-1 and was up in the 5th but he came back and he changed things in the game. In the last set my coach Darius KNIGHT said to slow it down and put more spin in more forehand and push him out the way. Darius was a lot of help, even just to have my team mate in the corner to support me.”
Victories over OH Sangeun, GAO Ning and Kenta MATSUDAIRA: “Playing against Oh Sangeun was amazing, he has been a legend in table tennis. I felt confident in the match as I was competitive all the way through. Even the games I did lose, I was leading in them at some stage. Thankfully I took the last two sets and won. I have known GAO Ning a long time. My plan was to hit a lot of spin to his backhand as his backhand is not as strong as his forehand. I tried to play the same way as yesterday, which was positive and aggressive, and it worked again. I feel great, it was an amazing match, but extremely tough. I lost against Kenta in Poland, so it was good to reverse that result. I had played Kenta just last week, so I knew my tactics well.”